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message 1: by Andre Jute (last edited Nov 22, 2011 02:01PM) (new)

Andre Jute (andrejute) | 4851 comments Mod
Why you should SWITCH ON
Fractional Widths in Microsoft Word

by André Jute

If you don't switch on "Fractional Widths", you're cutting a rod for your own back.

There are two ways to  switch on Fractional Widths, depending on which version of Word and which operating system you use. This one, for instance, works in Macs with the ur-word processor, Word X for Mac, on which all the more recent versions (except Word 2007) are based:
Prefences>Print>Fractional Widths

If you can't find Fractional Widths in Preferences or Options, try this:
Switch between Normal view (one long scrolling document) and Page Layout view (separate pages).
What has happened here is that Microsoft, in one of its notorious half-measures, decided that Apple with its WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) is only half right, Microsoft decided to give you proportional spacing on only half the programme, the page layout view.

What does Fractional Widths do? It fixes one of MSW's "hidden features" aka bugs. MSW, like Windows itself, is a programme from the Neanderthal Age of computing, before Xerox PARC and the Mac. In those days there was no proportional spacing on computer screens. Fonts on computer screens were like typewriter fonts, monospace (say "monnospahs"), every character into the same space regardless of width, i and w on the same amount of space.

Printers' fonts for books, by contrast, spaced the letters apart unequally, according to the native girth of the character. This was the Mac's big trick in the early days, proportional fonts, jargonized as what you see is what you get, WYSIWYG.)

That genetic "typewriter" code still sits behind all the pretty bells and whistles of MS Word. So what you see at the default setting is Word trying desperately to fit a proportionally spaced font, such as we use for books, into a monospace division.

This is what you will see with Fractional Widths OFF. Look in the last line at the f and the r: they are too close together. And the w and the i are too far apart. Compare those and other nastinesses with the example below, where fractional widths is switched ON:

Now the f and the r and the w and the i in the last line appear much more evenly spaced. In fact, the whole of the paragraph looks better, is a pleasure to read, and much easier to edit.

In the standard Microsoft manner of always preferring the most idiotic non-solution to a problem they've created themselves through arrogance (not consulting with specialists), MS still today, when everyone uses proportional fonts and screens that can show them perfectly well, sets the default at the obsolete typewriter "standard" of monospace representation.

The upshot is that, unless you change the default either by selecting a preference or an option, or working in page layout view rather than proof view (the long scroll MS calls "normal"), words appear to run together and in editing you may add spaces where none are required or, worse, not separate words run together by error and very often  by OCR (optical character recognition, the technology we use to "read" printed books into Word so we can work on them). This causes no end of bother in the formatting.

So, make things easy for yourself. When you start work on a new manuscript, check that Fractional Widths is SWITCHED ON by a tick in the tickbox or by working only in the page layout view.

Microsoft, with its usual dastardly disregard for the temper of its customers, of course made this a job by job setting. There is no way to make it the default, automatic setting. So check every time you get a new document before you start work. At least, once you've set Fractional Widths for any document, it will remain set for that document.

That's the biggest trick in Word, and the one fewest people know. Now you're a Word expert too.

© Copyright André Jute 2011

Revised and graphics added 22 November 2011. Thanks to Bill, J.J., Kat, LeAnn and others for pointing out that not everyone uses a Mac and my version of Word...

message 2: by J.A. (new)

J.A. Beard (jabeard) Thanks.

message 3: by Larry (new)

Larry Moniz (larrymoniz) Score Two Points for Andre! I had completely forgotten that one. Mille Gracias.

message 4: by Andre Jute (new)

Andre Jute (andrejute) | 4851 comments Mod
Here's the short version of my advice, which works in all versions of Word known to me:

1. If your version of MS Word has Preferences, or Options, in which you can switch on Fractional Widths, switch it on every time you start work on a new document.

2. If your version of MS Word does not have Preferences or anywhere else that you can switch on Fractional Widths, work in Page View (rather than Normal) because Page View automatically switches on Fractional Widths.

Fractional Widths makes it easier to read and edit your text because it mimics proportional spacing, as in a book, on your screen, rather than trying to represent a typerwriter page.

message 5: by Patricia (new)

Patricia (patriciasierra) | 2388 comments I don't have any of the menu options you mention. Remember when you were telling me how to insert a cover into my book file and I told you my menu didn't match yours despite your insistence that I was doing something wrong or not following your instructions? Well, it has happened again.

message 6: by Andre Jute (new)

Andre Jute (andrejute) | 4851 comments Mod
I've rewritten the first article in the thread to account for different versions of MSWord and different versions of the fractional widths switch, and added graphic illustrations just for you, Sierra.

What you should do is to put a piece of text onscreen and switch in and out between Page Layout view and Normal view (one long scroll) (or their equivalents) and inspect the setting for kerning differences because that choice is also the fractional widths switch in some versions of MSWord.

Don't be too sad about not understanding this first time round. Some clown on Kindleboards, who describes himself as a "software developer" was getting quite hysterical trying to prove that I am speaking about a non-existent facility.

message 7: by Patricia (new)

Patricia (patriciasierra) | 2388 comments I still couldn't find the same options you mention using the info above, so I typed "kerning" into the Word search box within the program and this is what I got:

Change the spacing between characters

1.Select the text you want to change.
2.On the Format menu, click Font, and then click the Character Spacing tab.
3.Do one of the following:

+Expand or condense space evenly between all the selected characters

+Kern characters that are above a particular point size

Select the Kerning for fonts check box, and then enter the point size in the Points and above box.

Note Selecting Expanded or Condensed alters the spacing between all selected letters by the same amount. Kerning alters the spacing between particular pairs of letters.

I was able to change my spacing using those links. So when would one choose kerning versus expand/condense?

message 8: by Andre Jute (last edited Nov 28, 2011 05:19PM) (new)

Andre Jute (andrejute) | 4851 comments Mod
Oh, Christ, what have I started?

Fractional widths was just a way for Microsoft, halfheartedly while they were still pretending that Apple's graphical user interface (WYSIWYG) wasn't either necessary or important, to show onscreen what proportional fonts would look like printed on paper with the laser printers of the time.

Fractional widths has nothing to do with kerning.

Unless you know what you're doing, you shouldn't mess with the widths and heights of fonts, because they will look awful. Body text is NEVER scaled. Display fonts may be scaled with a great deal of restraint by specialists who know what they're doing.

All good quality electronic proportional fonts come from the box with optimum kerning. They are NEVER kerned further in text sizes, and generally in display (large) sizes so little that the non-specialist won't notice. Handkerning is mainly an art of a bygone age when type was set in hot lead, and laying down display type by hand from Letraset sheets, one character at a time, was a fine art requiring seven years of training and and excellent eye and judgment.

In summary, kerning is what the designer built into his font to make it proportional, and may be further applied to display fonts by experts, whereas fractional widths is merely Microsoft pretending they're doing you a favour by showing you on screen some approximation of how the text will print.

"Anyone who would letterspace lower case text would steal sheep..." -- Frederic W Goudy, quoted on p63 of Grids: The Structure of Graphic Design.

Real designers also know what Mr Goudy added in the space hidden from the public view by ellipsis: "...for immoral purposes."

Can't say fairer than that.

message 9: by Patricia (new)

Patricia (patriciasierra) | 2388 comments I give up.

message 10: by Andre Jute (last edited Dec 02, 2011 08:30AM) (new)

Andre Jute (andrejute) | 4851 comments Mod
Graphic design is easy now. Back when we started in computers, it was real head banging stuff. As in, My head hurts so much already, I can't make it worse by banging this concrete wall.

I honestly did my best to simplify it as much as possible, Sierra. But jokes about Microsoft go down about as well on the internet as jokes about the Pope at the Office of the Holy Roman Inquisition.

The next time I am inclined to kern display fonts, I'll make a screen dump and post an example here. Good enough?

message 11: by Patricia (new)

Patricia (patriciasierra) | 2388 comments Nah, don't bother. I've decided not to use any font at all in my next book.

message 12: by Andre Jute (new)

Andre Jute (andrejute) | 4851 comments Mod
You're very likely right. Audio books are the coming thing. Literacy is over-rated.

message 13: by Patricia (new)

Patricia (patriciasierra) | 2388 comments Andre Jute wrote: "You're very likely right. Audio books are the coming thing. Literacy is over-rated."

You are always one-step ahead of the movers and shakers.

message 14: by Sharon (new)

Sharon Tillotson (storytellerauthor) | 1802 comments Yep. Audio and video...

message 15: by Keryl (new)

Keryl Raist (kerylraist) | 240 comments Sharon wrote: "Yep. Audio and video..."

Hmmm... You need to come up with a catchy name for that. How about moving image story... Movie?

message 16: by Sharon (new)

Sharon Tillotson (storytellerauthor) | 1802 comments Vidfic...

message 17: by Andre Jute (new)

Andre Jute (andrejute) | 4851 comments Mod
Los Angeles vernacular:

Moom pitcher.

(And the guy who said it attended one of my colleges. I knew then he was a fraud.)

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